Sunday, January 23, 2011

Arrived in Sri Lanka.

We arrived in at the city of Galle (pronounced gawl) in Sri Lanka, from Chalong in Thailand, on January 22nd, 2011 after a passage of 1150 nautical miles (2139 km) that took us 8 days, 17 hours and 30 minutes for an overall average speed of 5.5 knots. This very long passage was actually pretty quiet as we motorized the first 4 days by lack of wind then had a slow sail for about 4 more days. Then, as we reached the vicinity of Sri Lanka, the wind picked up and on top of a 2.5 knot current we were flying at more than 8 knots for the last day!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Phuket (pronouced Poo-ket).

Christmas was already behind us and 2011 was on the horizon. For us it was time to leave Phi Phi Don and set sail to the Island of Phuket, more precisely at the town of Chalong, where it is possible for us to resupply in fuel and food before leaving Thailand in direction of Sri-Lanka. After two days of grocery shopping and working on the boat, oil changes and inspection of the riggings, we wanted to visit the place a little. On this new-year’s eve we hired a taxi driver who took us across Chalong on board of his red “vehicule”. Of course, the ride in this 4-wheeled smurfette was more exciting than visiting the tourist sites themselves! Note: if you find that I look a bit sloppy with my unshaved beard it’s because I’m presently growing a beard and I’m still in the phase of looking like an homeless but in a couple of weeks it should look better.

Our first visit was to see the Big Buddha, which is visible from almost half the Island of Phuket. The 45m (145 feet) high marble covered statue was very impressive even though the construction of the site was not yet completed. A stairway is planned to provide access inside the statue and that, we can assume, should help the Buddhist followers to get closer to the Nirvana although I personally believe that taking a plane is a more efficient way, in terms of the height achieved, to do the same! Of course, here we assume that getting closer to the heavens means getting away from the center of the earth because if we climb inside the statue then for a Canadian, who is on the other side of the earth, we are in fact going down! All right, I guess I am asking too much for a philosophy developed at a time when the earth was flat! More seriously, look at the statue and can you determine the sex of Buddha? I am not an erudite on the question but I think that, although the first Buddha was indeed a man, he/she represents the ultimate state of a conscience or the state of a being at the end of the line of rebirths and in which case the sex of the being is not really important when presented in its spiritual representation. Wow, did I just say that?

On our way back from our visit of Buddha our driver suggested that we stop for an elephant ride! We thought we’d seen everything after climbing at the top of hill on board of his taxi propelled by a lawnmower engine but apparently Thailand had more for us to experience. Then hop we jumped on Mary’s back, a 21 years old elephant and already mother of a little 5 years old pachyderm, for a 1 hour ride in the surrounding trails. No doubts that an elephant ride is something special but let’s say that the beasts are not really driven to exhaustion by their owners. In the first half hour Mary made us cover the impressive distance of 500m (540 yards), which represents a speed of 1 kmh (0.6 mph) or, if you prefer, twice as slow as a human being walking at a comfortable pace! During the second half hour we simply came back on our steps. Of course, to attain this racing snail speed Mary had to stop once for her physiological needs, and God knows how impressive the needs of an elephant can be, three times to eat some bushes and twice to drink in the little water ponds along the trail! Well, we were not there to cross half of Thailand on the back of an elephant but it was still impressive to find a mean of transportation slower than a sailboat!
Finally, for our New Years Eve dinner we didn’t feel for something too exotic so we went to a little French restaurant, L’escale, in the hearth of Chalong where we enjoyed a very good magr├Ęs de canard, with the little sweet sauce, prepared by the French chef and owner of the restaurant who expatriated from his native France to offer his culinary talents in South Asia. After the meal, we came back to the dinghy but without realizing it we arrived at exactly midnight and as we put our feet in the little inflatable fireworks went off everywhere at the same time including on the pier just a few feet from us! It was really impressive to see but knowing that the guys lighting the rockets in question are far from being certified firework experts we quickly motored away in the middle of the water and far from the shores to watch the fireworks, which fired up in all directions we would look. We saw many fireworks in this trip but this one was really the most impressive.
Happy New Year 2011 to everyone and Danielle and I wish you Happiness, Health and Prosperity for the coming year.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas Hollidays in Thailand.

When we arrived in Thailand we knew we would spend Christmas and New Years day here since the NE monsoons, required for crossing the Indian Ocean, don’t settle until January. So we stopped in Ko Phi Phi Don for almost two weeks to pay ourselves some “vacations”. We took a mooring ball in the main bay and this is the view we had for two weeks from the boat. Not bad isn’t it?

We thought we would be bored during the Christmas period away from our families and the snow but it turned out we had quite a blast. Phi Phi Don is a tourist place that was completely wiped out during the Tsunami, in the middle of the decade, but as you can see is now quite rebuilt. For us it really started on my birthday on Dec 23rd when we decided to go have a nice dinner in a restaurant on the beach front with candles, the wine, the drinks and everything. It was very nice and in the evening we went to the “Reggae” bar where they presented fights of Thai Kick Boxing. Sorry we didn’t bring the camera that night so we can’t show you what it was like. But in the bar there was a ring and they would offer a free “bucket” to anyone who wanted to fight for fun. Many went and it was indeed fun, at least most of the time as some guys where a bit rough but nothing to be too worried about. Then at one point two real fighters showed up on the ring; they wear gloves and short, no other protection gears. They were pretty small but incredibly fast, which is a characteristic of Thai Kick Boxing as far as I know. After the fight the fighters would go in the crowd to shake hands and collect whatever money people would give them. After a few more amateur fights two other real fighters came up. These guys were much nastier than the first two and during the fight they would kick themselves outside the ring or thrown on the floor in near KO state after being kicked in the face at full force by the opponent. Do I need to say that you need to be flexible like hell to kick someone in the face? I must admit that this was not as fun as the first fight, which was much more technical, with a level of aggressiveness that made the whole crowd a bit uncomfortable. At the end the winner, who was by far the most aggressive, even took the large aluminum saucer they used to prevent the water, they pour on their heads, from wetting the entire ring between the rounds, and hit his opponent with it! The crowd started to shout its disapproval especially Danielle who was shouting “LOOSER!” repetitively to that killer oblivious of the fact that I wouldn’t last 6 seconds against him should he get angry about us! By then we were getting pretty drunk and decided to leave. We walked back to the beach where we left the dinghy to find it completely filled with water and sand as the huge tide came up a bit higher than we expected! Of course since our alcohol level in our blood would have blown any alcotest to the roof we started to laugh out loud like two kids while trying to bale the water out of the boat. We finally managed to put the boat back in the water in a floatable condition and zigzagged our way between the boats, real or imaginary, along the way. Let’s say that it took us about twenty minutes to cover the few hundred meters from the shore to Chocobo and we both arrived completely naked and swimming back while pulling the dinghy behind us. I leave it to your imagination to figure out what happened in between but like we say; what happened in Phi Phi Don stays in Phi Phi Don! After refreshing ourselves a few minutes in the water we climbed back on the boat and felt something that disappeared long time ago in Canada; it’s called freedom!
But then we still had Christmas coming despite our huge hangover, which took us two days to recover, and we went to enjoy a pretty amazing experience. This place, on the picture, sells what I would call piciexfoliation, where you basically put your feet and legs in fish tank filled with hundreds of tiny cleaning fishes eating all your dead skin for 20 minutes. We screamed our lungs out the first 10 seconds, not that it hurts at all, but because of the weird feeling coming from hundreds of little mouths sucking our legs! It was really fun and after our legs and feet were as smooth as a baby’s skin. As for Christmas night we booked a restaurant offering to the tourists a Christmas buffet of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, ham, duck and even cranberries! The brown stuff on my pile of potatoes is actually gravy, which was pretty good I must say and if you think our plates where full you should have seen the one of the small women, about 90 lbs (40 Kg), who filled her plate with at least 1 ½ time what I put in mine! I’m not kidding some people are so greedy in front of an all-you-can-eat counter it’s unbelievable. Since we are 12 hours ahead of Canada we waited the next morning to call home to wish Merry Christmas using MSN Messenger with video and all. We were maybe at the other end of the world but with technology not that far after all. We had a few drinks that night but reasonably came back with all our cloths to the boat ;-)